If there were any doubts about whether or not blogs were important to the political parties, this should assuage you.
After the quick and painful attacks on nominee Harriet Miers from conservative groups on the Web, the Bush administration is taking no chances. They have hired Patrick Ruffini, former head of Web outreach for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, to do similar work for the RNC. He and Ken Mehlman, the RNC chair, held a conference call yesterday afternoon to discuss the nomination of Samuel Alito and invited only conservative bloggers to attend.
The conference call is being widely reported on the prominent conservative blogs, and a with quick call to RNC I was able to confirm that it took place.
I've pieced together a good picture of exactly what went down on the call by reading the blogs. First, Patrick Ruffini explained that the RNC wanted to ensure that the blogosphere had a role in the confirmation process.
As if they needed an invitation.
Then, Mehlman walked through all the qualifications Sam Alito is bringing to the table. He described Alito as the most qualified candidate in 70 years. He then warned that the there would be swift and ferocious partisan attacks.
Bloggers were then able to ask questions. While most were focused on whether this would come to a filibuster and how to stop that, some asked about Miers -- was she set up? To that, Mehlman responded that the problem with Miers was that she didn't have a paper trail on constitutional issues and bowed out because of the question of executive privilege on requested documents.
I find the conference call fascinating. There is absolutely nothing untoward about it. In fact, it is a simply brilliant strategy. We have seen the power of the blogs in so many cases and the RNC has obviously found a way to harness that energy.
I am doing some digging today to see if there is any similar effort among the Democrats. I took a quick look at the DNC website. They are linking to the blog "Think Progress," but the only original sentiments seem to be "wait and see." In fact, there is a statement on the site that "we will be learning more in the coming days and weeks about why fringe extremists on the right are so pleased with Alito-and whether a Republican Party being torn apart by corruption, incompetence and fracturing coalitions can afford to let them continue to be in the driver's seat." But no word on coordinating the blogs.
Today on the show, more on the Alito nomination and a serious look at Bird Flu.